Divorced parents, increased drug use

Nicole M. King
9 March 2015
Reproduced with Permission
Family Edge

The News Story - Investigation reveals medical marijuana is getting into kids' hands

A special investigative report by CBS Los Angeles revealed that it isn't just sick adults who have access to medical marijuana.

Reporter David Goldstein uncovered "medical marijuana being sold to school-aged kids in broad daylight, within walking distance of local schools." Hidden cameras caught kids talking to adults on the street outside a medical marijuana dispensary, handing over cash, and receiving small bags or pill jars in return. After the report, police took action - arrests have been made, and the manager of the dispensary assured Goldstein that the staff are doing all possible to keep marijuana out of the hands of children.

But research suggests that as laudable as such crack-downs are, they will likely be only a Band Aid to a problem that runs much deeper than law enforcement officials can handle.

The New Research - Parental divorce and marijuana

In legalizing marijuana, lawmakers in some states have ignored the widespread perception among public-health authorities that marijuana is not only itself a dangerous substance but also a gateway drug, opening the way to use of even more harmful substances, such as cocaine and heroin. The judgment of these legislators looks even more suspect in the light of a new Swiss study confirming the status of marijuana as a gateway drug. But this new Swiss study also raises doubts about the judgment of the lawmakers behind the no-fault divorce revolution in all fifty states, a revolution exposing unprecedented numbers of American children to the trauma of parental divorce. Parental divorce, this new Swiss study reveals, is a prime statistical predictor of which young people end up using marijuana - so making themselves vulnerable to all of the associated perils.

Completed by researchers at Zurich and Lausanne Universities in Switzerland and the University of Oviedo in Spain, this new study examines marijuana use as a serious health hazard. The researchers note that "approximately 230 million individuals of the world's adult population between the ages of 15 and 64 use an illegal drug at least once a year and about 27 million male and female adults are problem drug users; the most frequent substances consumed include cannabis [marijuana], amphetamines, or ecstasy, followed by cocaine and opiates." The researchers stress that "drug consumption undermines economic and social development and contributes to crime, insecurity, and the increase of severe health problems, such as the spread of HIV."

The study draws its data from almost six thousand young men (all about twenty years old) who visited army recruitment centers in twenty-one of Switzerland's twenty-six cantons in 2010 or 2011. In these data, the researchers see clear confirmation of "the gateway hypothesis." That is, they find that "moderate or high cannabis dependence" predicts a more than fourfold likelihood of using other illegal drugs (Odds Ratio in the overall statistical model of 4.13; p < 0.01). Even "low cannabis dependence" predicts a threefold likelihood of such drug use (Odds Ratio of 3.01; p < 0.01).

But not all young men are equally likely to travel this path. The researchers identify parental divorce before the age of eighteen as a statistically significant predictor of marijuana use. Indeed, young men who had experienced parental divorce were twice as likely as peers from intact families to use marijuana (Odds Ratio of 2.01; p = 0.04). The researchers regard this finding as "in line with prior results showing that children who are exposed to family problems, including family disruption and conflict, are more likely to use drugs such as cannabis in both adolescence and young adulthood."

But while parental divorce drives up the likelihood of marijuana use, religion pushes it down. "Our study," the researchers acknowledge, "showed that religiosity, defined as believing in God and practising religion, protected from the onset of cannabis use." Compared to peers identifying themselves as atheists, the young men in the study who professed belief in God and regularly participated in worship services were half as likely to use marijuana (Odds Ratio in the full statistical model of 0.54; p = 0.04).

This new study provides ample evidence of the malign consequences of marijuana use and the parental divorce that incubates it. And those consequences will only multiply unless America finds a way to empty its divorce courts and fill its churches.